Why I Gave Up On Record Store Day

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Other Music on Record Store Day 2008.
Last week a ton of stories about Record Store Day percolated through blogs—Feistodon! The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends! St. Vincent! Beach House! Holy crap, you gotta get on line at 8 a.m. to get the best picks! On Friday, when I got an email from a store that contained both a list of records and detailed rules about how to make purchases, and I imagined standing on a sidewalk for an hour just to frantically paw through stacks of records hoping that one magical 7" would still be there, it hit me: I hate Record Store Day.

Record Store Day is a yearly event that happens on the third Saturday of April, and in the five years of its existence it's grown into a global thing. Record stores have all-day sales and maybe live performances or DJs, and they encourage people to come in and drop a healthy amount of cash on physical copies of music. One of the elements of the day that most appeals to collectors is the release of limited-edition records, whether they contain exclusive non-album tracks, or are special versions of some sort.

I appreciate that RSD has become a huge deal for independent record stores. It's true that it can help out smaller shops' second-quarter bottom line, driving customer traffic into stores and loosening up people's wallets to actually buy music in a way not unlike that time you had a few too many whiskeys and opened iTunes when you got home from the bar. I've gone to Other Music in the past, and last year I took advantage of Black Gold's "hey, here's some stuff we haven't priced yet for $1 an LP—have at it!"

But the exclusives kill me.

First, I hate that they encourage the absolute worst impulses in music collecting. Acquiring many of these releases is not about listening to a good song, or discovering a new band, or sharing music with friends. RSD exclusives are for trainspotters, the kind of people who will judge you for having A Nice Pair instead of original Harvest Pressings of Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets—and then go one better and judge you for having the pressing of A Nice Pair where they airbrushed out the topless photo. The glut of exclusives encourages competition over scarce items that will be touched once (if that!), then carefully filed away until you need to make the rent and you put a few records on Discogs. Take Feistodon, which involves Feist and Mastodon covering each other. A playful, goofy way to expand each artist's fanbase is pushed as a "special limited edition" and hits eBay within hours of the event at collector prices. Similarly, the new Beach House single is selling for more than $20, and the Flaming Lips/Heady Fwends LP is commanding close to $100. It's obvious that many fans are getting cut out of the process of getting a shot at buying something fun and are instead getting shunted into the collector's market—and what's the fun in that?

And in a larger sense, this speaks to how I feel RSD frustrates the most important function a good record store can serve: building community. This day may be a one-day bonanza, but does it encourage people to keep shopping during the rest of the year? Is it driving new buyers to understand how a good record store not only sells you records, but helps you discover new records and new musicians and connects you to things going on in your town? I know that when I woke up at 9 a.m. Saturday and checked my normal news/social media diet, I was already seeing pictures of block-long lines that had formed at record stores in different parts of the country, and it made me think of how intimidated—and turned off—somebody unfamiliar with record store culture could be by that sight. Couple it with going home and seeing that the record you wanted got shoved onto eBay before the day even ended, and you're not training people to buy records in stores; you're teaching them to wait a few days and go on the secondary market.

I know that this comes off as oldmanyellsatcloud.jpg, and I acknowledge that it kind of is. I worked at a record store (Go! Compact Discs in Arlington, Virginia) in the '90s. But I think back on the stores that made me a music fan—Tower, Smash!, Record Convergence, Vinyl Ink, Other Music, Kim's—and it makes me disappointed that so many record stores that have survived the past couple of decades of changes in the music industry are becoming more and more reliant on gimmicks like RSD to draw attention to themselves. Because to be frank, RSD feels like the last gasp of something to me, not the start of something new.

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38 comments
cloakanddaggertypesh
cloakanddaggertypesh

Screw Record Store day and screw the vinyl craze. I started collecting because my favorite local punk bands only released 7"s mainly. Then I started to DJ. So, I collected other stuff too. Prices now are insane. Vinyl at a show once cost less than the CD. This vinyl boom increased prices by 50-100% for used and new. Please invent some new musical medium so this trend dies and I don't have to pay 25 bucks for the new Beck. Damn hipsters to hell.

jmissinne16mm
jmissinne16mm

The record store in my town is an interesting case.  My nickname for it is "old fart day care."  They pay lip service to RSD by carrying some releases, but the sixty-something ex-garage rockers who both work there and hang around there "mark their territory" by putting down any customers who don't share their tastes.  Any music released after they finished high school is shit, all "their" music was pure gold, and boyoboy, didn't we fuckin' rock back then, you betcha.  That, muscle cars, and Tea Party politics are the only topics allowed; and if you don't like it, then get the hell out of our store and go get a haircut, boy.  

Jimmi Shrode
Jimmi Shrode

Sorry kids, you missed the hey day of vinyl.  Now record stores are just filled with obnoxious hipsters who have no taste at all.  You missed all the fun and all your feeble attempts to feel like you are cool are all for naught! 

Skip
Skip

Some day I'll have my own RSD, open up my country house archives and the cartons and cartons and cartons of albums & imports my wife and her friends collected while working during college in the late 70's/early 80's at NYC's Disco-Mat!

Negafulobooks
Negafulobooks

Couldn't agree more. Used to love my wreckastows!

SuperMonkeyBoy
SuperMonkeyBoy

I also have to agree with the original article. It has become "much ado about nothing" and annoying to regular customers. Nevertheless, I tried to sick my nose into a local shop only to find you had to take a number and wait until called to have you chance at the special RSD section. I was told my wait would have been close to TWO HOURS! I asked if they even ordered in what I wanted off the RSD list for 2012 and NOT A SINGLE TITLE WAS! I left emptied handed and will never ever get anywhere close to this hoax of a day. It's actually emblematic of most indy shops who put any "good" title on eBay and faithful locals never get a crack at it. If there is anything that has pushed me to grift MP3s off the internet, it's this scenario. I can't be bothered to compete for every new release, or mail order everything I want. You wouldn't put up with this at a grocery store having to jump through hoops to get a simple box of breakfast cereal.  

Bill Camarata
Bill Camarata

There is a negative part to all the record store day hoopla, but I go in for it anyway. I go in for it all. The day after RSD, I was crate digging with hundreds of other faithful record collectors at a record convention and got 20 albums for $25, less than I paid for that new Flaming Lips album. Long live record stores.

Jackson
Jackson

I think you're opinion about snotty people judging your music is snotty in itself. It seems you wrote this article just to say that you're a true record collector and everyone who participates in record store day is just a band wagoner and you're cool for hating it. God when is the this hipster mentality of hating on things going to be finished? And can't we just have one thing left for people to stand in line for and buy some tangible music, it's seriously just about the last thing left. Promoting independent retailers is not bad in any way. Get over yourself. 

Billy Fields
Billy Fields

Five years ago before Record Store Day began the overwhelming message from the media was that record stores were all closing and that soon you'd only be able to acquire new music by downloading. Nothing against downloading, it's convenient but there isn't much "life" in between the 0's and 1's.

Fast forward to now. The message is clear: Independent music retail is alive and well. If you don't like RSD, that is certainly your choice, but I'm often confused by folks that "hate" something that benefits an entity they claim to love and support.

ftaylor92
ftaylor92

I'm getting digitally remastered CDs of classic albums, so the original recording is better than it ever was on CD or vinyl.

Nate
Nate

Seems to work best in small towns and the rural areas...no lines, live music all day, great selection, no fuss (unless you are one of those dirtbags that overslept and missed out on the Phish lp)...thus my proposal for RSD folks:Send the small town shops all the rad shit. The eBay sharks can't patrol the rural areas like they can the condensed city shops. Send the cities large portions of the hipster-pitchfork stuff. This way you get in a big Fuck You to the eBay sellers by flooding the market with large numbers of the same item(s), plus there is a bonus Fuck You built in that goes out to the folks bitching and moaning about everything, because next year when they get down to Other or Kim's it will be nothing but Beach House and Metalifeist.

EarlyMorningCoffee
EarlyMorningCoffee

Fuck record store day. I love records, and collect them ferociously. And I live like you would expect a 40 something unmarried studio apartment dweller would: In the middle of stacks and boxes of records. I am "that guy". RSD is when I skip town.

Icantsing
Icantsing

That's too bad, I had a great time. This is a day specifically designed to raise record store awareness. If you ask me it is actually having it's intended effect. So what if the 'limited' aspect is artificial? When has this not been the case? Lighten up and celebrate the unlikely survival of the finest format recorded music has ever seen. You were obviously born listening to CDs

otter
otter

Me - I went to a little out of the way store I'd never heard of, found a ton of stuff I wanted to get (plus a couple used records I'd been half hunting for), laid down a nice chunk of change for them, and met some very nice people.  I'll be back, maybe not as regularly as I get to my main supplier - but they now have a new semi-regular customer.

Adam
Adam

RSD allows people to purchase and enjoy records that are exclusive, out of print, or extremely rare. It is an exciting day for me even though I hate crowds and lines. If you choose to spend that day each year looking at pictures on Facebook and checking eBay, that is your decision, but I assure you that many real record fans spend the day appreciating the medium and enjoying their purchases. In a time where everything is immediately accessible, isn't a bit exciting to have to work and search for an album you love? It is for me.

Edavidson2003
Edavidson2003

Know what you mean, though yes, this is a classic "first world problem," something us big city types can bitch about. If it helps pay a few months rent for the mom'n'pop shops, that's cool. I do also agree with your noticing that it actually kind of paints that old cliche of local record stores being run by know-it-alls who are rude to you -- not their fault, cuz it just gets so stupid packed in the stores, and people who never go into record stores are pushing and griping sometimes... The store I went into (not in NYC) actually had all the exclusives behind a wall, and you had to wait to go look through them. Definitely not exactly community building. (Though most people were pleasant enough.) Plus -- and this is really my only main complaint -- most of the major label "exclusives" are just new pressings of records you could go over to the used isle and get for $3. (Diamond Dogs?! A 7" box set of Electric Warrior?!) And are usually mastered horribly, but with "Fancy Packaging." As usual, stick to the indie labels! All-in-all, the idea of RSD is still pretty nifty.

Taylor Brigode
Taylor Brigode

Enjoyed the piece and am myself a Record Store Day detractor, which seems to be a unpopular point of view to hold.

For what it's worth, Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets originally came out on Columbia in the UK and Tower in the US, but any version, CD or 128k MP3 included, will do.

Andy Maroney
Andy Maroney

I have had similar sentiments in past years...primarily because I felt left out. I didn't live near a record store that was "in touch" enough with the labels or one that ordered product early enough to get it in time. I agree that the artists should have a better way of offering their "exclusives" to their own fans, not just some dude who's going to grab all the good stuff and re-sell it. I used to hate Record Store Day and thought it was a holiday for fetishists. 

This year I am fortunate enough to have moved to an area where my local record store, The Last Record Store in Santa Rosa, was able to get everything on my shopping list. They've been around for 29 years and are one of the most respected shops in all of Northern California. That might have something to do with the fact.I also did my homework ahead of time and researched what I wanted, made a list, and was in regular communication with the shop earlier in the week about what they got in and didn't get. I got in line a half hour before the store opened (about 25 people ahead of me). I consider myself one of the lucky ones because this year since I was able to get everything on my list... and then some. I probably spent more cash on this one day than of the rest of the year put together. That's the whole purpose of Record Store Day: to keep the independent stores alive.Sorry if you didn't get what you wanted but don't diss the stores because of it.

Brendan
Brendan

ONE THOUSAND TIMES, YES. The manufactured exclusivity sucks. As someone who patronizes these record stores exclusively, it frustrates me to no end that I get sniped by resellers on these exclusives - I mostly come out empty handed. At least a few of my local stores impose a one-per-customer limit - the first two years people were walking out with multiple copies of things that you have to assume were bound for eBay. RSD in its current incarnation excludes the loyal buyers and intimidates the not-yet-initiated. Concept: great; excution: poor.

Rick Shaw
Rick Shaw

Very well said. As a huge collector, I have to agree that RSD has become a bit of a boring novelty. And this year's RSD  listings were kinda meh on top of it all.....which was bizarre. It's cool to have this Feistodon 7" I guess....but mainly for the packaging.

However, we're saying this as folks who live in NYC and have some really rad record stores that get lots of customers all year. It's definitely different in the middle of nowhere though. I remem a store I used to frequent a LOT and gave a huge % of my yearly salary to for the 3 years I lived in that tiny New England town it was based in. On RSD the place was swamped with people who were buying more than just the normal RSD releases, and that always filled me w/ some happiness cos I genuinely loved that joint, and I hope it continues on forever (Dyno Records, Newburyport, MA.). So I do think RSD turns on a lot of the new customers to those weird shops in the middle of nowhere.....we do see things through our City-jaded eyes here. Lines areound the corner here mean a pain in the ass wait for novelty 7"s we dont really need. Lines around the corner for a small store in the middle of nowhere 'burbs can mean exactly what you're longing for: Community. I told a buddy about a random joint I knew of in the Connecticut town we grew up in for a Phish RSD release, he went, bought that, 2 other LP's and was asking me where he could get a decent starter turntable later in the day. That's pretty boss; dude never even cared about wax before. He noted he knew the owner from way back and they'd actually made plans to get some drinks later in the week while he was still in town. So in a way, in the burbs RSD actually is a pretty important thing. Especially for these middle of nowhere joints that need the extra dough.

Johnorfizz
Johnorfizz

having participated in RSD each year, i have to agree with you here.  this past year as i drove to my usual store of choice i had some of the same thoughts: why should i have to kill myself to get some special releases when i patronize record stores to the point that clerks know me?  i ended up getting a few interesting singles then spent more money on CD's.  to be honest, the list of releases this year wasn't very appealing despite the volume and the price tag is a killer.  i had to ask myself how often i would play some of these records or if i wanted them for the sheer fact that i can 'one up' other collectors.  i think the idea of RSD is great to educate people on a local business and take you back to a time when you had to talk with people - no shit - to get some advice about an album.  RSD isn't executed that way and is more of a build up on the one copy of some single, performed backwards by some band, that your store might not even get.  i like going to music stores and can spend copious amounts of time and money at any of them; i don't need a special day to do so but on some level it is cool and brings me back to the days of 'midnight release parties'.

well said.

jmissinne16mm
jmissinne16mm

Should also mention of course that it's a total sausage fest there.  Girls don't rock!  All records by female artists are segregated in their own section, possibly to prevent the spread of "cooties?"  (Blacks don't rock either; except for 50's doo-woppers, all records by black artists are put in a bin labeled "R & B, Soul, Disco & Etc.")

Browne
Browne

Re-read the article. You missed the point.

Jackson
Jackson

I realize I made a grammatical error with the word your in the first sentence, please don't solely comment on it. 

Joe Schmo
Joe Schmo

 Piss off guy. With yer "CD's"..........go back to 1996!!

Edleestone
Edleestone

I don't need something like record store day to have a bunch of people clammering all over my 7 incher.

Innajunglestylee
Innajunglestylee

Thanks for the fact check - this is what I get for relying on memory and never actually hunting down original pressings of the LPs. D'oh!

happyRSDshopper
happyRSDshopper

Records are on eBay whether it's April 21 or September 21. Get over it. Like Andy said, do a little homework first. Or, like me, get what you want on the downlow the day before (for being a loyal patron who frequents his shop 150x a year). Or d/l it. Just quit whining.

Innajunglestylee
Innajunglestylee

Truth be told I skipped RSD entirely this year to go to a park with my friends - there were certainly records I would have enjoyed buying, but I felt like I personally had better ways to spend my Saturday instead of standing on line for several hours at Kim's or Sound Fix or Generation or Other Music. This piece isn't about my sour grapes in missing out on scoring a record or two, it's about the idea that RSD isn't doing a good job of creating a sustainable model for people engaging with record stores. But good job on scoring the things you were looking for!

Dave
Dave

 My g/f called a NYC shop (I dont like this shop cos it's always a bit holier than thou, but I'm not gonna be a dick and note it's name.) inquiring aboot a certain RSD release, and they actually told her they were going to put it straight on eBay due to it's extreme demand. !!! Insane.She actually complained on Twitter, RSD contacted her, made her email them what she was told, and then was emailed by the owner of said shop to apologize! That was just bizarre...

I remem getting in a bit of a dust up w/ a couple in a store I always shop at here in NYC last year where they each had 2 copies of the White Stripes colored 7"s and I asked, "Hey do you each really need 2 copies, you're just gonna put them on eBay." The dude got in my face and I just laughed at him that he was trying to be tuff w/ me over wax, and so he backed down looking a bit foolish. But I'd totally called him out and he knew it. 1-per-customer is def the way to go. RSD take note. 

Innajunglestylee
Innajunglestylee

Yeah, I have heard anecdotally that for some smaller stores that RSD/Black Friday RSD is a really big deal for them, so it's hard for me to harsh on it even though I think it encourages a lot of what I least enjoyed about music collecting - and I get that I'm hella privileged in NYC to have access to so many stores in 2012 that continue to survive. Awesome story about your pal in CT!

GG Allin
GG Allin

You didn't even read the article, did you? Download it?! What are you talking about?!?!

Joe Schmo
Joe Schmo

This is a brilliant post: "d/l it" .....Why the fuck would you download something for RECORD Store Day? You've obviously missed the enitre point braheim.

Just quit snarking.

Negafulobooks
Negafulobooks

Yeah Jackson, ya kinda did. Good writing is also about style, not *only* content.

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